A simple political meeting, which calls for no comment. The French authorities reacted with the greatest caution on Friday May 17 to the virulent remarks against France made the day before by Ousmane Sonko, the former Senegalese opponent who became prime minister. For his first participation in a public event since he came to power six weeks ago, after the victory of his camp’s presidential candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the leader of the African Patriots of Senegal for Labor party, ethics and fraternity (Pastef) held a conference on Thursday on relations between Africa and Europe, alongside Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the founder of France Insoumise (LFI), visiting since May 15 in the country.

Ousmane Sonko took the opportunity to settle a few scores with Emmanuel Macron: “Many French leaders were uncomfortable with our sovereignist discourse, which explains the approving silence in the face of the repression against our political party,” he said. he launched, in reference to the repressed demonstrations in 2021 and 2023. “During the entire period of extremely violent persecution which led to and caused the death of more than sixty people (…), you have never heard the French government denounce what happened. You have never heard the European Union denounce what is happening in Senegal,” continued the Prime Minister, to the applause of the audience, while some students shouted “accomplices”, “hypocrites” and “high treason”. at the top of his lungs.

In Paris, the remarks did not go unnoticed, even if no one wanted to comment on them officially, both at the Elysée and at the Quai d’Orsay. The French authorities did everything, during the suspension of the recent electoral process by Macky Sall, to avoid becoming the target of a new anti-French campaign, like the one that has accompanied the military putsches in the Sahel countries, in Mali since 2020. , then in Burkina Faso and finally in Niger, three countries which have since become closer to Russia.

The “casus belli” of LGBT rights

In recent weeks, they have rather privately congratulated themselves on having escaped such a movement of opinion, in particular by coming into contact with Ousmane Sonko, even before the opponent was thrown in prison, in June 2023, and was thus deprived of the possibility of standing in the presidential election. They then maintained contact with those close to him throughout the recent institutional crisis, pressing President Macky Sall to respect the electoral deadlines.

After having thanked Jean-Luc Mélenchon the day before for his “unfailing and constant support”, Ousmane Sonko however clarified that he was not speaking as prime minister, but as president of Pastef, which did not prevent him to look beyond the borders of Senegal, in order to denounce the embargoes that have been imposed on the putschist countries of the Sahel – first and foremost by France. “We will not let go of our friends in the Sahel and we will do everything to strengthen ties,” he said, provoking a standing ovation. “The internal problems of the country must be resolved internally. Certainly, there have been coups, but I refuse to be among those who analyze the symptoms and who refuse to analyze the real causes. »

In the process, and while French soldiers had to leave Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, he criticized the presence of foreign military bases in Senegal and Africa, which “raises questions”, even if he does not has not, however, called into question the various defense agreements. France is currently examining the best way to reduce the size of its military presence on the continent, in good agreement with the four states where it has bases (Senegal, Gabon, Ivory Coast and Chad).

Ousmane Sonko continued his speech on the currency and the exit of the CFA franc, claiming the right to raise the debate without being demonized. He announced that “reforms cannot be long in coming.” The Senegalese Prime Minister ended with another point of disagreement with France and Europe, but, this time, also with his guest Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “The question linked to morals and LGBTQ risks being the next casus belli if it continues to be asked this way,” he said, denouncing a West which tries to “impose its vision on these questions” . “We ask the Western world for some restraint, respect and tolerance. » “We disagree, I am the first lawmaker to call for same-sex marriage. I assume my political position, but I will not seek to impose it on you,” replied Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in front of students standing up and making disapproving gestures.

Ousmane Sonko “has a form of sincerity, of rawness which is unusual,” said Jean-Luc Mélenchon at the end of the conference. The founder of LFI was to end his trip on Saturday on the island of Gorée off the coast of Dakar, a symbol of human exploitation and slavery. “Our line was good. Jean Luc Mélenchon is received before Emmanuel Macron and Ousmane Sonko considers him the other “voice” of France,” observes Arnaud Le Gall, MP for Val-d’Oise, and member of the LFI delegation visiting Senegal.